Friday, May 27, 2011

I’m an Abolitionist

I went to a screening tonight of the film “Call + Response”. It is an eye opening documentary into the world of human trafficking. Musicians and actors provide responsive songs & reflections to help connect the rest of the world.

Think slavery doesn’t exist in today’s world? Think again. 27 million of the world’s dirtiest secrets need to come to light.

I sat in an auditorium with maybe 30 people? Some were well familiar with the plight, others had no idea this sort of tragedy existed in our current, modern society and it was a bit of a shock. Where do you stand on that spectrum?

I didn’t learn anything new this evening, I more so went to make contacts – and that I did.

ACT Alberta – Action Coalition of human Trafficking
is a group comprised of representation from MANY local organizations all trying to coordinate their efforts in order to best help our local victims of trafficking.

Did you know trafficking is not just an over seas issue? It is widespread in Canada – thousands in Canada! The city of Edmonton included.

Did you know trafficking does not necessarily just involve foreign individuals? Local young girls & boys can be vulnerable to coercion, manipulation and exploitation.

Did you know trafficking involves more than the sex trade? Women, children & even (at times) men can be held against their will and forced to do labour of various types.

- A story mentioned this evening told of 19 construction workers that were trafficked males – locked in the building over night, fed on scraps. During the day, they were working along side other workers who had no idea what was going on right beside them. This finally came to light & they were rescued when someone noticed things that just didn’t add up in terms of these particular workers.

Trafficking is not going to stop unless people are willing to get involved. ACT wants to help educate people to know how to recognize trafficking – many stories involve people living amongst other people who have no idea they are there against their will. Many stories of rescue stem from someone noticing something off and trusting their instinct, following up (with a call to the police – please don’t intervene on your own).

The manipulation & coercion tactics used by traffickers would suggest they have the equivalent to a degree in psychology. These people are very skilled in managing their people – to the point many victims will often not recognize they are victims. Even amidst physical, psychological and exploitative abuse. Many will defend their trafficker.

The governments will only do what the people they are governing want them to do. If we make noise, they will have to respond. But, as long as we shrug our shoulders and look away, they will remain quiet.

Documentaries like this make me feel ill. Undercover individuals going in to brothels with hidden cameras -little girls living in cells, expected to “entertain” male clientele. SO many in a day. Refusal? Food might be withheld, or perhaps a beating will be received or threats against a loved one will be made. Do you really think little girls WANT to be doing this? Repeated rapes, beatings & loss of food break these little girl’s spirits and make them easier to control. My heart breaks for those children.

Girls ages 7 and up, being sold as virgins for a price (virgins will guarantee a customer he is not being exposed to any STDs). She will be kept for a few days, raped repeatedly, and then brought back to the brothel. Her hymen will be resewn and in a few days she will be sold again. The trauma to her genitals will of course cause bleeding with the next customer – which the he will take as a sign of her virginity and be well pleased. Girls as young as 3 have been found in this situation. I can hardly stomach that. My own daughter is 3.

These kids are NOT doing this by choice, but our governments again work for us. If we say nothing, they are not likely to step in.

In Canada the average age of a trafficked sex trade worker is 15.4 years old. Girls who are targeted are generally already classed as high risk. Aboriginal girls and women (and even boys & men) are in one of the highest categories. Regular teens though are not immune.

The abolition of slavery in Britain started with a group of men deciding this was wrong. They lived in a culture that believed slavery was moral, ethical & even biblical. They were HUGELY in the minority in what they believed was important to stand for.

20 years later,slavery was abolished in Britain.

27 million slaves today. Many of them children being forced into sexual slavery. Each and every one is someone’s daughter or son.

It’s time to tell our government that we don’t support this.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Cell Phone

The cell phone I've been carrying the last 3 years has still had a number from our previous province attached to it. These phone companies do NOT make it simple to break a 3 year contract and the fees paid to drop it were actually greater than just finishing out the contract and paying long distance charges whenever I used it.

Now, 8 months after our move, my cell phone is no longer responding to a 1-204 number. It will be nice not to have to tell people to dial long distance to reach me. Dumb.

As I've mentioned in other posts, cell phones are nasty nasty when it comes to conflict minerals. Something that has been such a helpful tool in OUR culture has had a devastating impact partway around the globe.

I did NOT want to buy another cell phone. NOT that I'm saying technology is bad, I quite enjoy it! BUT I am not down with the conflict methods used to obtain the necessary minerals for these phones & other devices. Wondering what I'm talking about? Check back here to a previous post of mine; "BUZZ WORD".

Reality check; how I feel does not exempt me from being part of this culture. When my kids are at school or participating in other programs, I am expected to leave a number where I can be reached. If I'm not going to be at home by my phone, I am expected to leave my CELL #. And for safety & concern when I leave my kids anywhere, I WANT to be reached. So, I need a cell that I can carry with me just like everyone else.

It is times like this I wish I never had read that initial book. If I didn't know how some of the components of a standard cell phone were acquired, I could just go with my first choice - a pretty pink smart phone I admired! BUT, I don't really wish I hadn't read that book. MY life would be easier, but perhaps my knowledge and desire to share can actually help make someone ELSE'S life better. And that's important to me on a whole new level.

Yesterday I took in my current cell - now dead - to some stores (in fact 6 were in the mall I stopped into). I was told my phone was just not compatible with the current technology. Crazy that after only 3 years, my totally fine, fully functioning phone is now useless. I didn't like that. Where did it leave me?

I asked a couple of the larger stores if they carried any phones that contained fewer of the minerals that would have been obtained through unethical means? Blank looks. Sigh. One store pulled out a phone and said "This is our new green phone - it contains fewer harsh chemicals & is considered less harmful to the user"

It's not ME I'm concerned about!! Green is great, but not my priority at this moment.

Looking online later back at home, I tried to find a used phone to avoid purchasing new. Wow! People want big bucks for their phones! Like $400++. I just don't have that on hand for this. I checked out refurbished options and a few existed, but ordering them online & having to wait while they come through the mail is a risk I'm too familiar with - I don't like that option.

I did some more research. Which of the big companies actually make a little bit of effort to manufacture their product a little more ethically than everyone else?

I revisited a site I had been to awhile back. It rates big companies in terms of their attempts at certifying their supply chain. If you are interested, this can help you out.

While it may not be the fancy pink phone and it may not have all the cool features of some other ones out there, I am picking my phone based on supporting a company that is trying to take steps in the right direction.

I'm still not totally on board with this, but I feel it is a logical compromise that I can live with.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Old Wives Tales

I recall years ago being told that slavery still exists. I didn't believe the person. I remember being told by a friend in highschool that genocide was a constant reality in the country where her family was from and relatives still lived. I thought "Surely not!" Not in this day, not in this culture, our civilized world wouldn't stand for it. I brushed her off and didn't give it much more thought. Now, nearly 20 years later, I've spoken to that friend again. I told her I was sorry I didn't believe her. I really struggled thinking such a thing could exist today.

As I've shared before, genocide is widespread both historically & currently. Beyond the holocaust - which Hollywood has brought more to light through various pieces such as Schindler's List & The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas This bit of history saddened me greatly. I didn't know it went beyond. I thought whatever evil had existed 70 years ago was long gone. This was the past, not the present. How wrong I was!

Our world is full of atrocities. My eyes have been opened and my heart broken.

I have made purchases at stores like Ten Thousand Villages and not really known what purpose it served. What does it really mean to purchase things at fair market value and send the profits to those who worked for them? It is called dignity.

Something I take for granted. Something I hold to as a right.

As a teen, we would hear stories of sex marketing. Mostly, I thought they were a tool to scare us into behaving. Reading about the markers of what may put a teen in a higher risk bracket for being trafficked, I was not high risk. I am thankful for that, but I definitely recall those that would have fit in that category.

What I thought was tales, stories and exaggerations, I'm learning now was actually not.

I am now recognizing many people, many groups who work hard every day to bring a voice to those who have none. They speak out to the governments, their peers & society as a whole, trying to help others know. They also work hard to be a practical support to victims.

There are such organizations in my own city, dedicated to helping people. It is my hope to connect in and become one more person helping to fight, helping to inform and plain old just helping anyway I can.

I wish they were just old wives tales like I had always thought, but they're not.

Sex slave at age 11, little girl bravely tells her horror tale to save others

Sex slave at age 11, little girl bravely tells her horror tale to save others

Human traffickers tough to prosecute | The News-Sentinel - Fort Wayne IN

Human traffickers tough to prosecute | The News-Sentinel - Fort Wayne IN

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reality Check

Do you recall the movie Matrix? It was huge to consider a parallel reality. One that existed beyond the realm of what the common person knows to exist.

I feel a bit like I am on a similar ride and it all started when I chose to pick up that initial book. My eyes were opened as I was introduced to a startling reality that goes well beyond what I was ever able to see in the world I lived in.

My life is grand; my reality offers no reason to complain. I have access to food, clothing, shelter and my freedom.

What I have learned though is that much of that has come at a cost – no, not the costs of our military fighting for the freedom we so often take for granted, but at a cost to the thousands of faceless people who make my comforts a reality.

I have spoken in this blog context about the realities of slavery as it pertains to coffee, and chocolate, but there is so much more and I am still learning.

Reading the current book “Invisible Chains”, I am seeing so much more into the world of human trafficking and I am so deeply saddened at how often the country I am so proud of has citizens that take no issue with the exploitation of other people to somehow earn themselves profit or gain sexual pleasure.

I find I think more about things now. Driving through Edmonton’s downtown this morning and through the interesting section known as Chinatown, I wondered who might be living here who wishes they could be anywhere else. Reality dictates that our city, among other large Canadian cities, is a harbour for many illicit activities involving detaining people against their will – for sexual or other purposes.

I question more now. Rather than think critically of the young ladies who are lingering, waiting for some interest, my heart breaks. I doubt any one of them woke up this morning thinking “Yes, I think today I’d like to sell myself.” See the guy watching her from the car over there? She's not here because she wants to be.

The sad thing is, it all comes down to economics. If there is demand, supply will be made available. There is obviously a profit for someone. That someone is not the person being sold however. Why is their life disposable?

In the Matrix, the lead character has the opportunity to select a pill. One will enable him to continue the path of gaining greater knowledge; the other will give him the chance to forget.

I feel like I can’t forget. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to pretend this isn’t happening and go back to not wondering about how my comforts come to be.

People may not openly support human trafficking, but in the broad sense of economics, most people have decided to accept it or to simply ignore it.

People don’t want to know how their coffee came to be, how their chocolate was harvested, where their clothing was manufactured.


I choose to believe it is really that people don’t know the reality. Consider the movie of a few years ago “Amazing Grace”. The abolitionist William Willberforce’s story of how slavery came to be outlawed in the UK. He believed that people just didn’t know the reality. He chose to believe they were ignorant of the conditions that their slaves endured during their capture and transport into their custody.

He chartered cruises for people. Rich people who were used to comfort. It was a lovely affair with dinner, drinks & music. However he very strategically brought the cruise ship around to the other side of the harbour. The people smelled the slave ships before they saw them. The atrocities “their” slaves had endured were finally revealed. Reality was brought to light.

I truly believe the greatest way to fight a war is with education. In my heart of hearts, I believe very few people would support modern day slavery. It is happening though, it is real. It exists on a much larger scale than ever before in the history of man.

Please take a moment to consider reality. Do your research and do what you feel you can to help support the abolition of modern day slavery.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Invisible Chains - Part 1

All that it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing
- Edmund Burke

I popped by the library today because one of my holds was ready for pick up. The entire first season of GLEE. I need to see what the big deal is!!

In the hold section, was another book I had requested. "Invisible Chains"

This was a book that had come up with a book club I'm trying to participate in. (I say trying because I've not successfully attended a meeting yet and this book was from last month, yet my library hold only surfaced today). I'm working on it.

I hope to read & comment here, much as I did with "Half the Sky".

Invisible Chains is a book about Canada's human trafficking issues. In Canada you ask? Um, sadly - yeah. It's kind of huge here. A country that prided itself as being a destination for freed & runaway slaves - a product of the underground railway of long ago, is now once again a destination. This time for traffickers.

My eyes are being opened and my heart saddened as this book describes places I'm familiar with; cities I've called home... Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and numerous smaller cities and towns. The victims are foreign and Canadian citizens. This scares me.

The issue is so much closer to home than I could have ever imagined and until 2005, there was no Criminal Code offense of human trafficking. The book describes Canada's record in dealing with human trafficking as lethargic.

I hope to learn more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buzz Word

I have had a few interviews over the last few years. I joked to my husband that I am becoming a professional interviewee and while at times I know I am just a filler candidate (they already have someone else in mind prior to the interview, but must follow due process), I say I never mind the practice. It’s good experience.

One thing I’ve learned from this is that interviewers are looking for certain key words in your answers. Generally educators interviewing educators is going to make for a very lengthy interview – long winded meets long winded – the more concise I can make my point, using these words, the better.

The key words give an indication that I actually know what I’m talking about – or at least have done the right reading etc. These buzz words exists for most every topic and I use them myself to know where people’s interests and knowledge base lie.

I am in the process of needing a new cell phone (or cell phone plan anyway). We’ve been nearly 8 months in our new province and my out of province cell plan is finally expiring (there was no benefit to trying to cancel it). When I’m doing my shopping around, I am interested to know who may carry refurbished phones that do not involve supporting the continued retrieval of conflict minerals (yes, your sweet cell phone contains a triad of minerals that were undoubtedly retrieved through means that would make your heart sink). The key word here is conflict minerals – the 3 T’s – Tin, Tungsten and Tantalum. Did you know Tungsten is responsible for the vibrate feature on your phone??

These 3 minerals alone earn Congolese armed groups an estimated $95 million dollars per year through trade. Gold (for jewelry & other electronic components) adds $44-$88 million trade dollars all going to fuel a war that has killed millions, (estimates are as high as 45,000 people dying each month), seen thousands of women & girls violently raped, and children & grown adults kidnapped and forced to be a part of the armies or become slaves in the mining industry that provides these minerals to the massive companies that make cell phones & other electronic devices.

So, I am realistic and know we are not going to successfully ask everyone to give up their schmancy phones. In this society? Not going to happen. But it would be nice to be able to ask a phone distributor what they offer in terms of conflict free options and not get a blank stare. Most of them have no clue what the buzz word is here.

Sadly, I think change must come from our governments and that may not happen without pressure from the consumer. Environmental lobbyists worked hard to get attention. Now there are policies, bills and grave consequences for businesses that cannot meet environmental standards. New recycling options are becoming available all the time and making green choices is an acceptable (and desirable) practice.

We’ve made our government acknowledge that our planet is not sustainable unless we step up and create balanced limitations – hopefully it is not too little too late. Now, we need to speak up again.

If those who govern us would set up policy that these organizations must follow fair trade standards for all minerals acquired, the fuel for much of the DRC/Congo conflict would be nonexistent. I might pay more for my cell phone, but isn’t that worth it to know it didn’t involve someone else’s forced blood & tears?

A solicitor came by my house a few days ago trying to get me geared about the local politician he was representing. He asked if I had any questions for said candidate. I said, I’d like to know where he stands on social justice, foreign trade policy, fair trade agreements and human trafficking. BLANK STARE.

Next, I wanted to ask about the cell phone the candidate likely carried – however I didn’t, I felt my point was already made.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kindred Sisters

This post will take a slightly different tone today as my heart is weighing heavy.

A dear friend’s little girl fell through some ice on Monday. CPR was done and after a time her heart started to beat again. She was rushed by air to the hospital where they are continuing to keep her body cool and monitor absolutely everything.

From the moment we got the call, my husband and I have been to the hospital many times and in constant prayer.

Joining us at the hospital were some other friends that we have known for so long and I realized I am part of something very special that I’m not sure if too many people can say they share.

There is a group of us. We grew up at the same camp, at the same youth events and many of us at the same church. There is a culture of community even though I can’t say honestly I have always been close to all of them; my friend whose daughter is tragically ill is likely my closest friend in the bunch. How wonderful to know each other’s children, when we know we played together at the same age as each of our oldests! (We roomed together at camp when we were 8).

This group of ladies is quite scattered now. We are in multiple provinces, many cities across those provinces, down into the USA and even as far as Barbados. Occasionally we all show back at the church we are connected to in Wpg and we marvel at each other’s kids, we hug and we catch up – often from where we left off the last time. Some of us have been in each other’s life 25 -30 years! You don’t just come by connections like that every day.

Even with the distance, there are many phone calls, emails, letters in the mail etc. I have kept cards of encouragement over the years from these ladies and in turn I have tried to bless them when I am able.

When a need arises (such as one of our own is facing now), I know this group is full of hearts that are breaking as mine is – they are rejoicing when there is news that is good and praying oh so hard! To have familiar faces in a hospital room; faces that have been familiar for such a long time, I hope is reassuring.

We cannot take the pain from our friend, we cannot take the fear, we cannot assure the unknown that we just do not know, but we can be there.

There are a few of us from that original group who live close. We have been able to help in the small ways, the practical ways. And we will continue to help – we just don’t know how long this journey will be or the extent of what it will entail.

This has made me think about this special group we are a part of. It is family really. We’ve had our differences over the years and our moments of hurt and celebration with each other and now with each other’s families. I am feeling so blessed to know each of these ladies and to know the love & support is there even from so far away.

Those of us who are close will do what we are able to do here, but knowing our sisters are praying and keeping our friend and her family tight in their hearts is such a comfort.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Be Kind

These 2 little words constitute so many foundational principles. I recall when our oldest was tiny; it was these words along with Be Careful that would be a precursor to nearly every outing.

I took this same boy (now so much bigger) to check out a new school recently. The administration looked at the eager faces of prospective students and said "We only have 1 rule in this school, it’s “Be Kind”". We heard this repeated a few times throughout the evening – to the point it got a little old and I realized essentially what they were saying was all the other rules still apply, we’ll just boil it down to how breaking any of those is somehow not being kind – therefore, don’t do it.

Having 3 small children, I try to interpret what an adult is saying to my child by way of considering what my child actually hears. At one point in the evening a staff person did not like my son and his friend play kicking at each other (as boys do – it was nothing extreme in any way). She said “Boys, don’t do that, one of you might get hurt, then it would no longer be kind. Our only rule here is to be kind – you can do anything else you want here as long as you are kind”.

My son of course heard “You can do anything you want as long as you are kind” So! He thought this was the school for him. He told me, he can run in the halls, he can be loud; he can do ANYTHING he wants because that is what he heard. I could totally envision him arguing that with teachers and any other staff who chose to challenge him. In the end, I don’t think this school is such a great fit.

We are all taught at an early age to “Be Kind”. It’s one of those golden preschool rules that should not lose its emphasis as we get older, yet somehow it does.

Easter is a significant season for those of many faiths. We believe that Christ showed the ultimate kindness (that word doesn’t do it justice nearly at all) through the crucifixion and resurrection.

I don’t know the history of the bunny or where it comes into play (I’m not going to research it here if that’s okay – too much of a digression, but if you know, leave a comment with a summary for me). Chocolate also is connected (again, I don’t know the significance, unless it is just a marketing thing in that chocolate works for any & every occasion).

So Easter is like playing a bit of duck, duck, goose – except lets call it Kind, Kind, UnKind.
Death & resurrection of Jesus – Ultimate Kind
Easter bunny & chocolate treats – Kind
Easter dresses, hats, flowers, traditional celebrations etc – Oh, most definitely kind!
Making those cute little chocolate bunnies & eggs – UNKIND

I’m sorry; there is nothing cute, cuddly, kind, fluffy, beautiful, kind, yummy, pleasant or kind about child labor. But that’s how we get our chocolate.

So, do we work to reflect kindness by our actions or our words? What if (like U-pick strawberry farms), we could go right to the source. Would you still buy that chocolate if you knew it came at a very high, very harmful cost to a child somewhere across the world? If your eyes saw and your ears heard, would that 1 pound bunny in your child’s eager hand Easter morning still hold the same appeal? Is it worth the money you paid for it?

Still don’t believe me? Google “chocolate child labor” and see what comes up.

This BBC article summarizes it well. The video version if you have a few minutes; part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

I will admit. I was in Wal-Mart a few weeks back and I purchased a small chocolate bunny & a few chocolate eggs for each of my kids. I really wish I hadn’t. I wish I had taken a few of my previous posts to heart and done my research first. I knew a bit, of course, but like I said in a post long ago, it’s like my fingers were still in my ears and I was humming a little bit too loud to really pay attention.

This is a complicated topic and one that will require lots of thought – and research. Fair trade IS increasing in accessibility, but there’s still a long way to go. We, the consumers, have the chance to really show kindness by letting the mass producers know we don’t like this. Supporting the fair trade businesses will show with our actions that we have a social responsibility to be kind. Even when we may never see who we are being kind to.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bottle Drive

I just got back from 5 hours of bottle driving with my kids. SMELLY! For international friends (or those from provinces that don’t do this), this is the ultimate fundraiser for groups. Recyclables that require a deposit are collected from the neighbourhood and cashed in, the money going towards the various recreational groups.

So, post bottle drive, until I managed to shower, all I could think was I SMELL! I’m showered now, but I STILL think I smell and I know my VAN most certainly smells. I need it to warm up so I can leave the windows open now to clear that.

It is not uncommon here in our city, to see people of all walks carting their deposit worthy recyclables to the depot for a few bucks in return. It honestly really does add up! Drive downtown and you’ll see homeless people loading up shopping carts, rooting through trash looking for that stray coke can or juice container that someone may have thrown away. For me, it’s a few extra bucks for something special with the family, for recreational groups it is something to lower the cost or increase the accessibility of a program, for someone who is homeless or otherwise in a lower income range, it may be the next meal.

Growing up in church, we would pray for the homeless, pray for those less fortunate and the needy. But truly, I always wondered what was up with that? It was kind of like reciting the Lord’s Prayer every morning in school (yeah, I know that totally doesn’t happen now, but it was the norm in public schools when I was little). You include it just because it is the thing to include. I don’t think in all that time I actually ever witnessed anything beyond prayer. NOT knocking the prayer, but why don’t people see themselves as the answer to those prayers when they are praying for those less fortunate?

In a town we once lived, there was a lady who lived up the street from us. A kind lady who doted on her little dog and was forever walking him around the block on his leash. If she happened to see me in my yard (or on the flip, if she was in her yard and I was walking by with the kids) she’d want to visit. I never had issue with this and enjoyed our visits – I think she may have had some sort of cognitive disability as her social interactions seemed a little askew. Being so friendly, she was always quite aware of anything going on in the neighbourhood and had earned the nickname “The Neighbourhood News.” She was older and lived with a brother & sister in the home they grew up in. There were other siblings apparently who had moved far away once they were old enough to do so.

I’m not quite sure how it came up, but another elderly, dear neighbour friend shared with me this woman’s story; her father was negligent (alcoholism was involved), her mother was unable to care for all the children. This other lady said it was the other neighbours that took it upon themselves and for years, blessed this family with groceries every week. This family was cared for and essentially survived only by the kindness & generosity of others. Poverty in a neighbourhood one would never suspect.

I have read a fantastically amazing book by Jeannette Walls called “The Glass Castle”. It is a look at poverty, homelessness and growing up in circumstances most of us wouldn’t have thought existed. As Jeanette put it in an interview I watched online “We grew up aspiring to become poor white trash”.

Homelessness is not a choice, circumstances may find someone in a situation well beyond their ability to comprehend, let alone change. Poverty is real. Our ability to help and make a real significant difference in someone else’s life is also real.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Never Again

This post has been a long time coming. It has been ruminating for awhile and I’m not sure I’ve got it all straight, but there’s only 1 way to really figure it out – write it down!

I was in Walmart recently and had a poor experience. The staff themselves were fantastic (I have an awesome favorite cashier guy that it would be total digression to go into detail about him now, but he makes my day!) It was all the customers! Wow! I walked into a store of very unhappy people. Grouchy faces, rudeness to others in line, people totally snarking at their kids in a way that made me wonder how they treat their kids when they are NOT in public. Stuff like that. I walked out wondering what manner of reason would cause a store full of people to be in such horribly foul moods.

I have referred to myself in the past here as a perpetual grump. NOT something I’m proud of. I’ve snarked more than a few times at unsuspecting store people. Meany that I am! I AM self aware though and this IS an area I do work hard at. I think sometimes I’m actually over friendly – likely freaks people out a bit. Oh well, a bit of friendly freak never hurt, right?

I recently watched a BBC documentary called “Worse than War”, featuring the book of the same title and its author - Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. It was an eye opening film exploring the phenomenon of genocide. Chilling. The author himself is of Jewish decent and his father’s personal story was shared of his own holocaust experience.

Things I didn’t know:

• Genocide has killed more than 100,000,000 people worldwide in the last 100 years and is actually considered one of the leading causes of death globally.
• There have been many genocides worldwide in the last 100 years (I think I only knew of Rwanda & the Holocaust).
• Genocide is defined as the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.
• Genocide is a top down affair. People follow the cues of their leaders. People in power with a dislike, distrust or even hate of a group of people, have used their influence to encourage & foster prejudice

The film laid it out in such terms that would help one realize there is no simple solution. When there is crisis, the world turns to the United Nations for support. As well as the USA who are leaders in this sort of diplomacy. (As a Canadian, I need to put in a plug for us too – Canadians are right in there much of the time, but in terms of sheer numbers, the USA is a stronger force). However, the UN and other world leaders need to choose between morality & diplomacy.

Morality would state that if people are being harmed and we all know about it, there should be something in place that allows the world to jump in and put an immediate HALT to it.


Diplomacy is where we’re stuck. World leaders historically have not intervened until months and sometimes YEARS after the atrocities have begun. They must talk to the target country’s leaders, the neighbouring country’s leaders, etc etc. They must make every diplomatic effort to determine that what is happening is IN FACT genocide.

Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide
Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.

I don’t want to knock the UN – I don’t envy the leader’s their job AT ALL, but my heart breaks for those who are hated and discriminated against for something so inconsequential as skin color, ethnicity, tribal lines etc.

For the leaders who are establishing a need to eradicate another group of people, they weigh the cost vs. benefit. Obviously these political leaders feel there is benefit. They do not expect to be stopped or have outcry from the international community so there is no cost for them – no desire to stop

This film showed demonstrators picketing and protesting outside parliamentary buildings. Signs and voices together shouting “NEVER AGAIN”. The irony of that is that governments in hindsight will agree. The atrocities should never have happened and policy should be put in place so that it will never happen again.

Until the NEXT time. This is happening right now.

See a pattern?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Approaching Earth Day

Any big plans to save the planet this year? I maintain that it is the same posture to protect our planet as it is to protect her people. Doesn't it always seem to be that war, slavery & impoverishment seem to follow greed that is pulling natural resources out of the Earth with no regard to the long term impact? This often results in devastation being left behind. Both to the people and our planet.

Sustainability is pretty key. Sustain our planet by sustaining the environment and caring for its people.

Unknown to many (perhaps a bit of info that is in all other respects useless), I have a degree in Agro-Ecology. So, sustainability and protecting the planet from US is kind of a bit important to me.

I do my part, what I can, but it is a planetary epidemic. Caring for our planet; caring for her people. They DO go together.

April 22 - All Day! Is a day to celebrate our Earth! Where you might bring bottled water, bring a reusable bottle from home, a coffee on the go? Have you seen some of the fantastic travel mugs out there? That is thinking small of course, and also, keep in mind that the Earth needs our love and protection EVERY day!!

Did you know there are many groups dedicated to getting the word out? One of these such groups is called Environmental Booty I've been following this group for a short while now and appreciate their take on things. I like their dedication to getting the word out. Make sure you check out their totally fantastic Earth day related giveaway also! If environmental consciousness sounds painful, perhaps some of their great ideas will help you realize that every little bit helps.

Countdown is on, 10 days to go!! What will YOU do?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy birthday to me!

Tomorrow is my birthday and I’ve been getting requests in my inbox to use my birthday to ask my friends for money for various causes. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t do that. I don’t hit people up for money; I don’t try to push people with what makes them uncomfortable, I’m not here to guilt. I’d like to say I’m here to educate.

If someone knows something they didn’t know before about worldwide conflict, poverty and strife, then I feel like I have been successful. If someone takes what they’ve learned and chooses to apply it in a way that benefits someone else? Even better! But I’m not ready to retire yet. I’m having too much fun!

I don’t say that it is fun learning about all of this. In fact, it is somewhat depressing most days. The shock & awe factor has worn off a bit. I mean, the shock I originally felt – and disbelief that people can be so evil towards each other. I’ve now read enough, seen enough, heard enough that while my heart is deeply saddened, that is the way of it. And so, it is up to the rest of us to fight even harder to bring a little more cheer! So, my mission of the moment is to continue to help people know what is going on and to celebrate those who have dedicated themselves to helping.

So, what is my birthday wish list?

A little bit of money to update the wardrobe – I don’t TRY to look like a dowdy mom most days! But that is my current default style. Although I tell myself that I possess the ability to make it look cool! (likely not, but whatever)

A netbook or otherwise portable device so that I can do various media related things other places rather than my office. When I’m watching a flick I’d like to comment on here, it’s annoying to keep pausing it to run to the computer to jot down thoughts – I guess a notepad & pen would work too…. And yes, I know electronics involve conflict minerals which I don’t want to purchase new into my home – a refurbished something would be great!

A yoga class. My current discounted yoga class is coming to an end. It has been the best thing for centering and giving me ME space! I do have some other discounted classes starting soon though… so I should be good for awhile.

Books! I would love to own my own copy of Half the Sky & A Thousand Sisters! But! I just got a belated Christmas gift of a Chapters gift card, so I’m going to be able to get one of those for sure!!

I’m having a party tomorrow evening. Just a few good friends and their kids (mostly for the benefit of MY kids who insist they need cake). We’ll go to supper at Humpty’s (kids eat free on Fridays!) (and it is the kids fave place), then back to our house for dessert. My middle man asked that if I get toys for my birthday, would I please share them with him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Unknown Purpose

So, I’m noticing a distinct theme with my posts.

BE the change.

GET involved.

BELIEVE you can make a difference.

All of which is true, but man alive! I’m starting to sound like an infomercial for the Peace Corps! NOT what I’m going for.

When I did home party sales, I think I drove everyone just a little bit nutty. I really don’t want to do that to my family & friends. My sales person personality needs to give it a rest.

If you are reading this blog, I believe you are already someone who KNOWS everything I’m trying to say. You know how to make a difference and you CARE for people who don’t have it as great as many of us do – whether you know them personally or not.

So, what becomes interesting? What motivates anyone to help someone? Why do the people who care – do? On the flip side, how do the people who don’t – not?

So, what is the purpose? What is the point? I think I need a few days to mull.

However, in the next few days, if I have something to say, I will. Hashing out thoughts of my own is definitely part of the purpose.

A yoga class this morning caused me to be deeply reflective. I must continue to think long & hard on what is next to come.

Mush the Bag

How well do you follow instructions? Come on, be honest. If truth be told, I am a little bit bad at it!!! Mostly in the kitchen. Yet, I keep coming back for more. I love to bake, I’m just terrible at it and I think it is only a little bit funny that I can mess up even the simplest of recipes.

A nice lady whose son is in my middle man’s kindergarten class brought me a starter of Amish Bread the day before spring break started. She also gave me a loaf of already completed bread. Yummy! I wasn’t kidding about her being nice! I got home and the bread & starter sat – forgotten – on the counter for the next while. Later on, I walked by and thought shoot! Better do something with it. So, I tossed it in the fridge. The next day, I looked at it and read the instructions which clearly said DON’T refrigerate. Hmmm, didn’t take me long to mess that up! See? I’m a magnet!

Amish bread is a 10 day affair. For 8 of those 10 days, the instructions are; “Mush the Bag”. That’s it. So, I’ve been mushing. I’m not sure if I’ve already messed it up, but we’ll see. On day 5, I had to add a few things, and then the next day goes back to mushing etc. Pretty simple.

Apparently only the Amish know the starter recipe, so if I bung this up, I’m really hooped unless someone gives me more some day.

The magic ingredient here would be yeast. I can smell it and I can see its effects, so I know its there, even though I did not add it.

Funny thing - yeast. It continually grows as it feeds. If it has a steady food supply, it can just keep growing, even though the initial bit may have been soooo super tiny. I have no clue who may have originally started this mixture I was to mush daily, but that yeast has been on a journey. Little things that are properly nurtured will grow.

The movie Pay it Forward follows a kid who “Get’s it!” A little bit of the right stuff can go a long way.

Biblically speaking, Jesus left one of his disciples with a mandate “Feed my sheep”. So often in Christian circles, this is claimed to mean Christ followers are to go out and cover the spiritual needs of the world. Personally, I think that too many churches do just that. They focus on the spiritual, but forget about the physical. Really, couldn’t Jesus have actually SERIOUSLY meant to feed the sheep?

In terms of sheep, I think it is safe to assume Jesus is talking about people – the references to himself as the shepherd are frequent & clear.

I do find myself very frustrated that this little bit of instruction while seemingly so obvious, is often forgotten. Jesus realized he couldn’t teach spiritual things to those who were hungry. He managed to make a few loaves of bread & small fish spread to feed thousands!! Miraculous? Most definitely, but also worth noting is that he knew that physical needs must be met first in order for spiritual needs to be able to flourish.

A little bit goes a long way. The simple touch is often the best!

So, back to my instructions. I am off by one day on my bread mushing. I added the extra flour, sugar & milk a day late. I need to count where I’m at, but I think today I may need to actually do some final steps and then bake it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Secret ingredient soup

I had one of those “Best Day Ever” sorts of days yesterday. It wasn’t anything too spectacular really; we just had lots of family time with no one needing to go anywhere like work, yoga or French classes. It was US, all day!!

We went to church together (many weeks, just a portion of our family is able to make it), stayed there for Soup Sunday. (A first Sunday of the month tradition. I think it may have always been soup at one point; this week however, it was tacos. Yummy!)

We went home and chilled for a bit (ie, someone fell asleep), then we all went swimming at the pool!!

This pool has a waterslide! Our kids had not been there before when it was functioning, so this was new for us. Middle man was quite excited and after a few test runs with Mom & Dad, he was up/down by himself continuously for the next couple hours. Little lady needed an escort and had no qualms about wanting it to be daddy each time. Whatever.

Big boy was 8 though and technically was not able to go down with a parent. He was terrified. He went up & down those steps so many times; getting so close, but not being able to follow through. We tried to tell him it was no big deal; he didn’t need to do this. But, he was determined. I have to say, it was one of the proudest moments for me to finally see him let go and go down. What a rush! After that, he was hooked! I am so happy that he worked through his fear to conquer something big!! He just had to believe he could and that it was worth it!

We came home and wanted to celebrate. Celebrate the last day of spring break, celebrate big boy’s success! (Really, it was just late and I wanted an excuse to order pizza). Pizza it was! AND we put on Kung Foo Panda!! Have you seen it??

An unlikely Panda named Po works for his dad in the noodle business. Through interesting (animated) circumstances, he gets selected as the Dragon Warrior. This legendary character that was foretold to be the only one who can defeat the very bad character (whose name I forgot). He seems very out of place, a real misfit amongst the “furious five” (the famed kung foo warriors). However at one point in the film, it suddenly becomes clear that he has his OWN set of skills that no one had even considered (a slightly predictable plot of course, I’m sure we’ve all seen one of these).

Finally Po is allowed to see the sacred dragon scroll. It is brought down from its high perch and Po opens it to discover it is blank! Shock!! This scroll was supposed to explain things, tell him how to defeat the bad guy and be completely incredible, right?

So, the town is being evacuated b/c the bad guy is coming and Po is helping his goose dad move the noodle cart. Finally his dad says he feels Po is old enough to be let in on an ancient family secret! The secret ingredient to Secret Ingredient Soup (this soup is mentioned at times throughout the movie). The secret ingredient is……. Nothing!!!!

Po suddenly clues in! It is the IDEA of believing that is what actually has the impact!!! He suddenly understands the secret of the Dragon Scroll!!! It is blank because he already HOLDS the power.

Anyway, a true feel good movie with enough varied styles of humour to keep us all entertained.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t do it? You look at something spectacular and you realize it is intended for someone else, not for you? For whatever reason.

A few years ago, my husband tried out to be an air force pilot. It was a long shot – we knew that. Many hundreds of people try out and very few actually get in. We always would word things in such a way so that our hopes weren’t raised and we didn’t expect much. I guess I could honestly say that I didn’t believe – the odds against him were just too great. A friend quickly put me in my place though when she turned to my husband and said “Well, why NOT you?” A very good question I realized!

After months of aptitude, medical & simulator testing, my husband DID get in and was offered a position in the air force! Unfortunately, this is the same time that he fell critically ill. Once they learned of his medical condition, the offer was withdrawn. Such is life! But, he can always say that he DID beat the odds and get in!

People who work hard doing the amazing things they do are just people. They were born, grew up through childhood with all its knocks & twists and went through their own journey to get where they are now. Activists, movie stars, doctors on extreme missions, you & me; we ALL started in the same place.

So, why NOT you? Why NOT me? The secret ingredient to change anything is all of us. Dorky analogy, I know, but do me a favour and think about it! Really!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ultimate Blog Party!!

I live in a chilly part of Canada and am a stay at home mom to 3 busy kids. My career as a high school biology teacher is on hold - for just a little while.

After reading Lisa Shannon's book "A Thousand Sisters", I was inspired to search out how I could do more. As well as the sponsorship of my sister in the DRC, I have been writing down thoughts in my blog.

This blog has attracted much interest from both nearby and countries far away. It has triggered some pretty heavy discussion. I share thoughts about social justice issues and what I am learning through books and other social media.

People have contacted me to tell me that after reading what I have shared, they too have decided to sponsor a woman through Women for Women or look for other ways they also could be doing just a little bit more. Either far away, or focusing on one of the many needs nearby.

If I have managed to help a few more people become just a little more aware of the issues taking place in our world, I am happy.

Basketball, Books and a Future

I don't think I've posted this before, but I've shared the link prior to this. A very inspirational story worth sharing.

Basketball, Books and a Future: One Woman's Gift to Kenya's Slums

Hope out of Hell

I’m talking the tiny little plant on the big polluted Earth of Wall E or the flowers appearing all around the fairy in the final scene of Fern Gully. When things are supposedly at their bleakest, there is always a glimmer of hope to be found. Sometimes you just need to look for it. In the Lion King, Simba at first does not see it and he is told by Rafiki to “Look harder”. It was there!

When I first started looking into some of the social justice issues hitting our world – our brothers & sisters on this planet, I did not feel much hope. I felt overwhelmed & blown away by what people were capable of doing to one another.

I think it was the book “Half the Sky” that helped me realize how many people feel the same way I do. So many groups are in existence with the sole purpose of helping. How wonderful!

However, the book talks also about the groups that come in without really understanding what the situation is that they are entering into. They come with visions & ideas that are tainted by what they think might be the best way to help. Then, after they leave, nothing is in place to maintain or continue what they’ve started. Their heart was there, but they were set in the way they felt they should help – and that’s not always practical.

Not being one to reinvent the wheel, my husband carries a quote. It is “Find where God is at work in your context, and join up”. I’m possibly not quoting that with full accuracy, but the idea is there.

Now, for certain, not every group in these zones carries a religious connection and I’m not saying anything on that either way – that is just the quote.

There are so many ways to help and social media has helped take that to a whole new level!! Various humanitarian organizations are finding new ways to get the word out and they are being successful at drawing attention to where it needs to be – which supports my belief that people are inherently good – so many of them just didn’t know what was going on. Between the news, facebook, twitter, blogs and youtube, people can not only read about, they can join groups, follow progress and watch what’s going on just with a click!!!! With another click, they can donate in such a variety of ways too!

A fantastic blog I touched down on a few days ago is dedicated to the purpose of examining various humanitarian organizations and sharing what they do and how to help. It is a wealthy resource and I’ve been able to learn so much! Thank you Mango Muse!

I think every bit of assistance should be celebrated! Nothing is too small!!! One organization I connected briefly with came across hugely cynical. I was informed that too few people are willing to help and that so many people are just talk and nothing else. I think however, that this individual had a very specific idea of what help should look like.

We are all different. Our ideas of how to help may be as unique as we are and I’m not saying that everyone should take what I'm saying and rush to help overseas. There is need all around, just take a look. A new friend shared with me a few days ago that she feels a strong call to work with disabled adults in our city. It is something so near to her and who she is, but it may not have crossed my mind.

That’s the beauty of it!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ready for lovin'?

As I was giving my daughter a bit of love & snuggles yesterday, she suddenly broke away and said “That’s enough loving for today”. Not long after that, I was bent over looking at something and suddenly SHE is back on me, smothering me in love so I said “Hey, I thought you said you had enough loving for today!” She giggled of course, and then kept right on loving me.

I cherish these moments and this was one of those that I just never want to forget. (Makes up for all the other moments that this same daughter may have me ready to pull out my hair!!) My kids are 3, 5 & 8 and the 2 younger ones are fast approaching their next birthdays. Come to think of it, the next big birthday is MINE! & I am definitely feeling my age!! Sleep deprivation is so ironic in that you WANT to remember all the wonderful moments, but you are so tired and in the grand scheme of things, really remember very little. My kids aren’t up most nights anymore, but some mornings I am really dragging.

My sister & her family slept over last night. They live about 3 hours away so, while we don’t see them ultra frequently, we see them way more than we used to so I’m pleased! Between us, there were 7 kids on residence. 1,2,3,4,5,8 & 8. It was only a little loud & chaotic!!! Actually, it was wonderful!

We always want to do what’s best for our kids and I know it is often a big mystery as to the best way to respond to various things and that definitely cornered a bit of the adult conversation.

When my first big boy was born, I had read all the books, had all the “NEED” equipment and he was cared for in a text book fashion. I found with my middle man, it was largely the same, but since I had to accommodate a bigger boy’s needs at the same time, I had to show a little more flex. And the pattern continued even MORE for my 3rd. It was for her that I discovered all the COOL things. Like cloth diapering, baby wearing and nursing long enough to make others raise their eyebrows (I’ve always been one to push people’s comfort a bit, so there I go!) I was way more relaxed!

I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of each of their birth stories, but suffice it to say, they each got here in their own way. Each of their care has come from my heart and while the process had definitely relaxed by the time we had 3, I came to realize what was really important. I stopped stressing about what the books said and took to paying more attention to my individual kids NEEDS.

I did say NEEDS, not WANTS. Ooooh, I wanted all the great baby stuff!!! While I have trouble shopping for myself, give me kids things and a need I can semi-justify!! Really? It’s just stuff. The car seat is a NEED and a few other things from a safety (legal) standpoint, but so much of it is just frill.

In developing countries, our want lists would raise a few eyebrows. Wants? What the heck are those? Excuse me, I don’t have access to clean water and thus struggle to produce milk and therefore my child is dying because I don’t have the ability to meet his NEEDS. Time for a gander down the road of “let’s rethink this”.

After a pleasant outing with all the cousins (in which I got in some extra special snuggle time with a precious 2yo niece), we all went to the restaurant of choice (majority ruled and 7 kids age 8 and under picked McD’s – any surprise?). So, of course the kids have to check out what the current toy is and decide which one they really NEED (yes, I’m aware we have work to do in this department).

Once the food was in front of us we noticed one of my sister’s boys was disappointed that the other 3 boys all got a different toy than him and so one of the adults was about to go to the counter to request a trade when MY middle man offered to trade with him! Well, everyone is happy and once more eating our high calorie meal when we realize my middle nephew is once again sad. What happened was MY middle man decided to renege on the trade and had carried out the swap. This was highly uncool of course, so we enforced that our middle man must stick with his earlier decision. Well! I will tell you that when my middle man decides to wail, it is like a fog horn. Embarrassingly, I wish I were exaggerating, but I am not.

I commented to my sister about the young couple sitting at a nearby table. I figured this will certainly scare them off from ever having children. She laughed and said yeah, they’re likely figuring their kids will NEVER behave like this.

So, nearby diner’s lunch was somewhat disrupted (although really, what do you expect if you are dining at McDonalds?)

As we were leaving (because really, it was just time), a McDonalds employee steps out from behind the counter and hands my son another toy. GRRRR. Um, thank you for that moment of undermining the parent McDonalds!

We still had a serious discussion with our son though about integrity and sticking by what you said. (We likely used more 5yo type words, but that was the general idea). And then 2 minutes later, he was asleep (likely partially a contributor to the lack of good judgement).

Kids NEED what we teach them. Love, empathy & respect for others and a full sense of character. The stuff is just stuff.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charities Tapping Into Social Networks For Support - Family News Story - WSB Atlanta

Charities Tapping Into Social Networks For Support - Family News Story - WSB Atlanta

That’s a good Joe!

My daughter picked this line up from a cartoon movie – Monsters vs. Aliens, I think. She’ll sit with her water or milk at the table and say “That’s a good joe”. She knows she’ll get a laugh every time.

When I’m making coffee at home, I do offer it to my kids – partially to be polite, but also because I know they’ll laugh & remind me that coffee is an adult drink. I DO enjoy my coffee.

Coffee is one of those things that is under fire by me, mentally. It is one of these necessary evils. Evil in all the bad things it does to me, necessary in that it does lots of good for me as well. I LOVE coffee.

However, I KNOW (as do I think most coffee drinkers somewhere in a recess of their minds) that coffee is one of those products that while benefiting US, is quite disturbing in its production process. We’re talking child labor, wages well below legal standards, a work day extending well beyond legal standards, unsafe use of machinery & pesticides etc etc. Check it!

And at this point in time, the coffee WE purchase at our local store is at a nice low price that doesn’t even cover the farmer’s expenses – this leads to a debt cycle that is very dangerous and just adds to the above mentioned issues. But I REALLY love my coffee!!

Bring in Fair Trade! WHAT does fair trade even mean? It means all the above concerns are monitored & taken into account before the coffee reaches consumers. To receive a fair trade label, all these issues must be resolved.

YES, it costs more. A comment was made to me a few days ago as I was having this discussion with someone. This person said if they felt bad about buying regular coffee, they’d put a few extra bucks towards another group in the area trying to help out. *I shake my head*. I posted a link a few days ago about Nestle trying to justify child labor “As long as the kids have access to proper schooling”. Excuse me? So, you’re saying I can work my kids 12+ hours in the day, exposing them to unsafe conditions and various abuses, but so long as I get them some education in there, somehow that’s okay?? So, if I buy my lesser expensive coffee from Kenya (where 60% of the coffee laborers are children), but I pay for a well in a neighbouring African country, I’m justified! - ???

I don’t like it.

Rather than continue to buy lesser expensive coffee, if more people would accept the reality about where their coffee comes from and start supporting labels that show the fair trade logo, much of these issues would really just go away. If the farmer was paid something above, rather than below the cost of production, they may actually hire real laborers rather than enslave children. In Guatemala, the average female worker makes $0.87 -$1.30 for a 10-12 hour day rather than the legal $2.60 for a maximum 8 hour day. It is a bit of a cycle and the only one benefiting here is US.

Things HAVE been improving though, consumers ARE starting to realize this and major chains ARE making fair trade products more readily accessible. In 1998, more than 21,500 kg of fair trade coffee was sold in Canada. By 2004, Canadians were buying more than 940,000 kg. That’s a huge jump!! In Europe, sales of fair trade products are increasing at a rate of 20% per year. People ARE noticing and demanding change and the industry has had to follow suit. Yay!!

So, a week ago while shopping in Costo, I was purchasing more coffee (because I love it so!) I looked at the big tub for one price, then the slightly smaller container for more than a slightly higher price and I went with the fair trade option.

Why put a band aid on your knee if the cut is on your elbow?

For the record, Starbucks and other large deluxe mega coffee companies have already gone fair trade.

Like it? Please share it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Social Justice Club??

I’ve been checking out high schools in my area as of late. Not that I think my kids are going to jump a few grades, but more so because I am a high school science teacher and I’m hoping to familiarize myself with the nearby schools in the hopes that one day I might find myself once again employed.

As I looked through the many activities and extra curricular groups each school offered, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some actually have a Social Justice Club! Wow! How great is that?

Empathy breeds a desire to change. Who else is as idealistic as an enthusiastic, energetic high school student!

Our local paper has at times mentioned various school groups doing something for the greater good and I’m always so impressed. Sure, for lots of kids, getting involved raising funds for something or rallying for something might just be something they are doing as part of a peer group. However, many of these kids will be taking something truly to heart and be truly moved to continue what they’ve started.

When I was in high school, there was no social justice group, I don’t think I would have had a clue what social justice even was. No one was raising funds for any grand cause beyond safe grad. Perhaps other schools were a little more involved here, but mine was not. I was happily one of the music geeks and was content in my little world. I guess they’re now called gleeks? (Although the glee kids make it look so much cooler than I remember ever being).

The paper this week and last week ran an article and editorial on Eva Olsson. A lady in her late 80’s who is a holocaust survivor. She has written a book (which I’ve requested our library to consider obtaining) and goes around the country giving talks on her experiences. She talks about bullying and the damage caused by bigotry and hatred. Adolf Hitler being the ultimate bully.

Our world is full of bullies. Not just the school ones, but everywhere you look someone is being squashed down by someone bigger, stronger or with more money. Africa’s conflicts are full of bullies, but North America has so many too.

I am so impressed with these schools that have groups dedicated to raising awareness & empathy. Teens are the perfect advocates as many of their views have not been tainted by the harsh realities of life. Idealism sets the perfect stage for empathy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride – Fave movie of all time. I definitely have enjoyed some others along the way and LOVE a few even, but Princess Bride has an untouchable place with me, up with the original Star Wars trilogy and a few other untouchables. I am eager to watch it one day with my kids, but a few parts make me think I’ll wait just a bit longer.

This week, for me, made me feel like I was living on the Cliffs of Insanity. You know, the ones they have to climb that are a sheer drop going high into the clouds that you have to be absolutely insane to consider climbing? Those ones. Nothing drastic happened (and nothing especially that could compare to a friend’s week – she told me about it last night and I chose to shut up at that point about my own).

I’m grouchy. Really, I kid you not. I am a perpetual grouch, it is my normal countenance. Ask my poor kids & hubby. I like my ducks lined up and my house clutter free. With 3 kids and a fabulous husband, that is near impossible and it delves me right down into the pit of despair (another classic scene from the film). Man! I’m a grouch! I do hide it well though and only those who know me super well have caught a glimpse. I would be curious to know what went on in their head at that moment that my real self surfaced!!

This week, I did not get much for “me” time and I felt it. My yoga class on Tuesday was pre-empted for an interview – which was actually a great thing!! I just really missed my down time. And Thursday morning, I was the “Duty Parent” at my daughter’s preschool. So, my only 2 slots of true alone time were gone. Woe is me.

As I was driving to my French class last night, I was reflecting on that book I mentioned I’ve been reading “An Imperfect Offering”. I am just over and over blown away at these people that are constantly putting themselves in full on danger to help people they don’t know, in a country that is not their own. Wow!! I admire that more than I can express. People standing up for people – as it should be. In fact, Doctors Without Borders started b/c some of the doctors with the Red Cross & other NGO’s did not like the stance those organizations took to stay so impartial. It’s a give/take I suppose. Their impartiality at times is what enables them to be allowed into certain areas, but at other times, these doctors felt that if they had stood up, something could have happened to CHANGE things for the better and prevent future strife.

This book is kicking me in the sense that I have always been so clueless!! I would watch those World Vision infomercials and be almost able to block it out. I wondered why on earth don’t those people in Africa just get a clue? Send them some seeds and a hoe! Really! How ignorant am I?? Completely na├»ve. I think World Vision does a disservice by broadcasting in that way. Why don’t they actually explain WHAT is going on? Starving people is a HUGE deal, but it has not been their own choices or lack of knowledge that has brought them there. This is NOT an ignorant culture. Mass starvation has been a result of the many conflicts that have existed for so many years. I had NO CLUE!

Sometimes I wish I had just stayed in my hole of ignorance. Why do I want to know all this? I really have no answer except that I know as someone who claims to have a faith and follows someone who has set the prime example of standing up and caring for people, this knowledge bugs me. It REALLY bugs me.

I hold to the belief that maybe most people just really don’t know much about what is going on. Because really, if they DID know, wouldn’t it bug them too??

Princess Bride has the mystery and intrigue of starting wars & pinning it on others, kidnapping & romance. When I am in my own pit of despair, I really need to suck it up, because in reality, I have it SO good. I need to keep my focus in perspective. Be thankful & humbled for what I have and work hard not to take that for granted.

Elections are coming up!! I don’t expect Canada to break into civil war over who wins & loses, but I will be paying a bit more attention this year regarding some of the platforms. Surely our government has more of a clue of what’s going on then I did. I know they have OUR country to run, but I’m just a little bit curious to know if this all bugs any of them and what they think we could be doing to stop the insanity.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

I need to check back with my extremely savvy blogger friends on how to add a picture for wordless Wednesday! LoL! SO! I'll instead, leave you with a brief statistical point to mull over.

Consider this:

Records state that transatlantic slavery brought 10,148,525 people from their homeland over into slavery from the year 1514 to the last "legal" voyage in 1866.

Feel free to check it out at Voyages - The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

That was over a span of 352 years.

CURRENTLY at any given moment, in this "age of civility" where anyone with any gamete of conscience is anti slavery, our world has over 27,000,000 people held in slavery against their will. This is not a span of hundreds of years, this is NOW.

Feel free to check it out at Matador Network

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In the presense of plastic

I was on the clean up crew at my daughter's pre-school this evening. All I can say is that was a lot of plastic.

Plastic scares me a bit. From the knowledge that every bit of plastic made from chemicals by people will be forever on our planet. It may be melted down & changed into some other form, but it will always be there. The footprint of plastic is massive.

That really doesn't sit fab with me.

Let’s Save the Planet

- A plug for harmony

My favourite colour is green. Always has been. I think that started b/c my Grandma once told me HER favourite colour was green, but then as I aged, I came to recognize my love for nature and all growing things and green just fit.

I grew up and followed one career path which led me to pursue a degree in Agroecology. Basically an Agriculture degree with an Environmental twist. It seemed to fit who I was. Unfortunately it did not fit where the world was at. Being part of an inaugural class for a new degree program had its drawbacks. None of us could get a job at the end of it!! We were a hybrid of 2 industries that often turn up their nose at each other. The ag-industries tend to promote chemical use for fertilizer & yield – THEY did not want an environmentalist on staff. The Environmental companies wondered why on Earth we would choose to support the Ag industry and they felt we were a little too UNgreen for them. So, of the 16 of us that graduated that year, a few got their Master’s degree (along a more straight agricultural path), some became teachers and I think there are a few pharmacists even! I don’t know anyone who has succeeded as an agroecologist and I don’t even know if the program still exists.

The powers that be shook their heads at this result and figured this degree was perhaps ahead of its time. They saw the positives in a merge of these 2 very different (yet in many ways very similar) areas. But the industries themselves were not willing to consider a compromise.

On a more grandiose scale, I look at our planet. We have people trying to save it from an environmental perspective, and we have people trying to save it from a humanitarian perspective. 2 seemingly different campaigns, yet with a surprising amount of overlap.

In Africa, much of the slave trade revolves around people wanting to harvest mass quantities of natural mineral resources. Lives are being destroyed as the planet is being destroyed.

I’ve taken to scrolling various blogs on the matter and so many exist! You see the word GREEN all over! What does this word mean to you? How committed are people to saving the planet? There is a whole industry devoted to GREEN. From toilet cleaners to environmental air fresheners and detergents. Really, I don’t think stuff like that is making much of a difference – give me straight up baking soda & vinegar.

What if things were brought into balance?? Is such a thing even possible? If people weren’t so keen on living with such excess, how different would things look?

The current slave trade is alive & well because the demand is there. It is there for diamonds, other precious metals, coffee and others. If the demand didn’t exist, neither would slavery. The human trafficking of children for the sex industry would not exist either. It all comes down to demand.

Caring for our planet is a wonderful thing and I will be the first to celebrate someone’s efforts, no matter how small. But the people of our planet are also in need of care and I don’t just mean putting in a tin of something from your cupboard that you don’t think you’ll ever eat into the harvest bin. Think bigger!!

Demand creates a need for supply.

We continue to demand from our planet and from the people who inhabit it. These people don’t have a face we may recognize, but we do need to recognize that they are the ones providing the supply for our demand.

Support the companies that truly have our planet and her people in their best interest. Sometimes you have to look for them. They are there and they will continue to get stronger if people continue to demand for them! Slowly, slowly, requests for change ARE happening. It’s not time to kick our feet up and rest just yet, but it is cause to celebrate!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Diversity Conversation: Lisa Shannon and Kathleen Owens



Khadarlis-change: Water is life...

Khadarlis-change: Water is life...: "Could you imagine if you had to walk 6 miles just to get clean water --- water to drink, cook, do laundry, clean your home, or take a show..."

Brain Cloud

I have a hard time with contentment. I think in part it has something to do with the fact my mind is always whirring and I want to be involved & participating and feeling like I am REALLY contributing.

I have 2 university degrees and years of experience putting on events, organizing groups and rallying people. At the moment, I stay at home with my kids. Yup, that’s pretty much what I do. I feel like my brain has atrophied.

Now, as many people remind me (a bit too often in my opinion) “You are doing the most important job there is” (ie, taking care of my kids) and while I agree, I still say my mind is restless.

I really don’t want to turn this into a gripe about “a day in the life of me” b/c really, how boring is that! But I’ll tell you this; I think my kids are winning!

So I think it is safe to admit, that not only do I at times feel I am not using my mind, I also fear I may be losing it!!

I feel a little trapped with my desire to be contributing to global struggles. I sit here, read the odd book, try to follow discussions and news releases online to keep myself informed. However, that voice inside of me (the evil one that I work hard to suppress most of the time) wants to ask what the point is.

The groups I see hard at work are so far away. I feel like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves when he is put in an outpost and finds himself all alone. At first, he keeps a tight fort, presses his uniform and polishes his shoes, always keeping himself ready for what he has been called to do. Eventually, he realizes that he is all alone and no one is coming and he starts slacking.

I find it hard to maintain a healthy level of self worth when I feel I am not contributing in a way that feels tangible to me. I am a teacher in a community that has too many teachers, hence I am unemployed because since we just moved here, I have no foothold in the hierarchy of things. So, my paperwork is all submitted and I must continue to wait until my file makes its way to the surface.

My Congolese sister is so far away and I need to remind myself that what I do, I do for her and others like her. It is not about MY search for significance or MY self worth. How North American of me, to think this journey is about ME!

There is something called Run for Congo. it was created by the author of “A Thousand Sisters” – Lisa Shannon. When she didn’t know how else to help, she started to run and eventually hosted a run to raise funds to support more sisters through Women for Women International.

Anyone want to run with me? I think my next book might be “Couch to 5K” at least if my brain atrophies, my legs won’t!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

10x10 - Educate Girls. Change the World

blackpurl's knitpickings... an expat journal: Lessons from Saint Patrick

blackpurl's knitpickings... an expat journal: Lessons from Saint Patrick: "I taught religion class this morning at Evergreen and introduced them to St. Patrick. As you can imagine there are not many Irish people her..."

Luck 'O the Irish

Today is a day for celebration! For those who are Irish, and even for those who are not – St. Paddy’s day fills the pubs with those looking for a pint. Even better that many pubs will serve ‘em up green!

I am part Irish and while I have no intentions of going out for a pint (I have my French class this evening), I am celebrating by wearing a green shirt and I’m taking a break from my French homework (actually, I’m stumped for the moment, so this was a good excuse to do something else for awhile).

When I was little, I recall being very confused about my heritage although I knew it was something very important. I owned a Ukrainian looking shirt – therefore I figured I must be part Ukrainian. I had a kilt and my Aunt had married a Scotsman, therefore I figured I must be Scottish as well. It took me awhile to figure it all out. I am actually mostly British with one Irish grandparent.

My kids have it worse when they are trying to know who they are. My hubby brings a different mix to the table. French & Aboriginal (no, he is not Metis, that is a whole different culture group). I try to tell my oldest that he is Canadian and just leave it at that, but knowing his roots seems just as important to him as I recall it being to me and he's not satisfied with the simple answer.

One funny slightly digressive story; I have features that at times have caused people to guess various ethnic backgrounds for me far apart from what they actually are. I have (*ahem* okay, HAD) very dark hair and I have very green eyes. Many years ago when I worked in a retail store, I had a bit of a stalker who was an older gentleman who wore a turban. He continued to insist I was a good Indian girl who must be willing to marry his son. Okay, THAT was a bit extreme and I really don’t think I look THAT unlike who I say I am. It’s just a funny story now and I hope he found a good wife for his son!

If you are Irish, today I lift a hypothetical pint in your direction! If you are in Ireland, enjoy the festivities!! I’m already seeing circulating photos of the parties & parades.

And here is a bit of history about the term “Luck of the Irish”. It NOW has a connection to good luck – hence the charms & clovers & pot of gold, but in the beginning, it was not so good. It was a bit of a put down.

When Irish people came to America, they were not treated well (what was that movie a few years ago – Gangs of New York? – it showed many of the various immigrant groups struggling along, trying to survive) Anyway, they had it rough. When Irish people then had any sort of success, others would chalk it up to luck because they figured the Irish people couldn’t be capable of such success on their own – so that is where the term came from! Now you know!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mandatory Fun

It was suggested that some of my posts are somewhat intense and that I should take a moment to lighten up! So, here is a momentary intermission from the seriousness of life. That’s okay actually, I’m still feeling the effects of time change and my mind is somewhat foggy these days and the serious stuff is a bit weighty on a befuddled brain.

While I find myself a highly funny person who loves to laugh, this does sound a bit like mandatory fun. Like you know when you go to some event or group and they make you play a warm up game or “Ice Breaker”. Really, I think people bond over the dumbness of it all. Maybe that’s the idea.

For my kids, mandatory fun is the name of the game and this game is played from morning until night and they work hard at it. Drives me a bit nutty actually. For my middle man especially, life is a laugh and we think he enjoys nothing more than making himself laugh – even better if someone else joins in, but if he’s on his own laughing hysterically, he’s good with that. The catch phrase for him that gets him going every time is “BUTT”. I kid you not. Did I mention he’s 5?

Okay, so right now I’m picturing my husband reading this and guffawing that I am NOT funny. Let’s just say deep down I do have a sense of humour. Is that fair? I think my standards are just really high and something must be quite funny in order for me to laugh.

Hmmm, maybe I am a bit stuck in the mud.

Okay, self awareness is always healthy. Working on it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Salt & Pepper

Some things just naturally go together. A few examples come to mind; sweet & sour, peanut butter & jelly, bagel & cream cheese. Yummy!!

Salt & pepper also came to mind. These 2 are so inseparable that there is a whole industry of shakers supporting their union!

What about Justice & Mercy?

Definitions of justice on the Web:
• the quality of being just or fair
• judgment involved in the determination of rights and the assignment of rewards and punishments

Definitions of mercy on the Web:
• mercifulness: the feeling that motivates compassion
• alleviation of distress; showing great kindness toward the distressed

These seemingly 2 opposite sides of a coin work best when aligned. I once asked, is it better to fight against the never ending conflict that exists or to focus our energy in responding to the aftermath? In this sense, my question was trying to determine if we should place one ahead of the other. While a multitude of opinions exist and many valid arguments, I just keep coming back to the perspective that you cannot have one without the other.

I have started to read another book – one I hope to report more on here in a few days. At this point, I’ve only just made it through the introduction. That in itself offered so much food for thought. The book is called “An Imperfect Offering” by James Orbinski, M.D. Dr. Orbinski was with the organization Doctors Without Borders and this book is a collection of stories he has been in and lived through over the last 20 years.

The introduction is heady, Dr. O describes one question that he says has preoccupied him for much of his life “How am I to be, how are we to be in the relation to the suffering of others?” I would think this is the deep rooted question for all of us who see the suffering and want to help. It also leaves me a bit confused along the way about how others can see the same suffering, but yet be quite satisfied to turn an apathetic head.

A quote from page 6 (you can see why this read is going so slow!!!) “When I began working with MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres), I naively accepted the cloak of the apolitical doctor. I believed humanitarianism – with its principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence – to be outside of politics, in some ways even superior to it, and a way of avoiding its messy business. But I would come to see humanitarianism not as separate from politics but in relation to it, and as a challenge to political choices that too often kill or allow others to be killed.”

So while the side of justice is so important to CHANGE things and requires political knowledge, ability and authority, mercy is necessary to show CARE and COMPASSION to those who are affected by the things that NEED to change.

A third side to Justice & Mercy is Apathy. A humanitarian tries to turn apathy to empathy.

One final quote “Humanitarianism involves an insistence that international humanitarian law be applied and a call to others to act as citizens to demand that governments respect basic human dignity.”…. “Humanitarianism is about the struggle to create the space to become fully human”

You may be stronger towards the justice side of things, or perhaps your heart beats more for mercy. If you find however, that you are apathetic, please work to turn that to empathy. If most of the world just doesn’t care, then how will anything change?? Think about if WE were the ones in need of justice & mercy. If was us and our loved ones, and we were at the mercy of others being willing to get involved, wouldn’t you hope someone would want to do this for you? I would want someone to believe I am worth it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Imagine That!

I was lucky last night to have been able to attend a fantastic cultural event. Which culture, you may ask?? Mine actually!!

Living in Canada, I’m surrounded by a vast array of cultural diversity. I LOVE it! I WANT my kids to look around and be part of a mixture of colours of skin, styles of clothes and so many beautiful languages! Canada celebrates that and as a Canadian, I celebrate that too!

The concert last night, was with Steve Bell. I found it highly cool that my husband managed to snag tickets pour gratuit – this fellow is from the same home town as us and we share many mutual friends. He is a hugely talented singer/songwriter/musician and it was a delight to be able to see him in such a regal venue as the one we were in last night.

People in Canada celebrate music, dramatical performances, symphonies, art shows and a multitude of other incredible cultural events. We have beautiful buildings dedicated to the display of this talent and while tickets are often way beyond what I can generally afford, I find even just living nearby, there are times (like last night) that tickets just find their way to you and the opportunity to enjoy is yours for the taking! What luxury! What freedom!

I love watching reality shows such as The Amazing Race and Survivor. Part of what I love is that they are in all these amazing different countries and at times, you get a glimpse of the culture. Dances, costumes, it is all so beautiful!

When I was younger and I would think about Africa, apart from the safari of animals that would come to mind, I would envision people in fantastically coloured clothing, amazing dancing & incredible music.

I recently had a thought, and it went like this; imagine if there was no conflict or civil war or oppression of any kind in the DRC. Imagine if men & women could go and farm the rich soils of their land and reap the harvest without fearing someone would come and take it – or worse, take their dignity or their life? What if some of them could go to work – even in the mines, but for fair pay, being allowed to return home to their family each night? Working for a business that trades on legal grounds with the rest of the world – and the rest of the world was OKAY with this set up. What if???

A dear lady sent me a blog post a few days ago. It was also encouraging people to imagine. The author was talking about a particular tragedy, but she commented that imagining is not limited to that situation alone – she suggested we DO try to imagine someone else’s hardship rather than just saying we CAN’T imagine.

Rather than leaving the tragedies and atrocities at arms length and just relishing in the peace we have to be able to celebrate our own culture, let’s imagine for a moment what it would be like if we couldn’t.

Imagine your children are hungry – and while the richness of the land has the ability to sustain them, you are helpless to do anything but watch them suffer.

Imagine you have been raped and your husband has abandoned you or been killed.

Imagine the fear that your 9 year old child will be stolen away and forced to join a militia or become a slave labourer in the mines that supply the rest of the world with diamonds and electronic dependent coltan.


As this post was coming together in my mind, John Lennon’s song kept popping in - couldn't help it! An excerpt of the lyrics;

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

Imagine a culture set free from oppression. Imagine the beauty these people possess being set free to soar.

Imagine if more people would be willing to imagine!